Bacterial genes jump to host

Frequent lateral gene transfer from bacteria to their host organisms may be a mechanism for hosts' evolution

Charles Q. Choi
Aug 29, 2007
Bacteria living within insects, nematodes and other eukaryotes transfer genes into their hosts more often than previously thought, according to a study published online this week in Science."This could be a rapid mechanism by which organisms acquire new genes and evolve new features," said John Werren of the University of Rochester in New York, who was a senior coauthor on the study. The findings may also affect how researchers sequence genomes of eukaryotes, the authors suggest. Bacterial sequences are routinely discarded in such studies in the belief that the data reflect contamination. In fact, coauthor Julie Dunning Hotopp of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., told The Scientist, "any bacterial sequences they discover may not be the result of contamination, but rather the result of gene transfers." Geneticists have long debated the extent to which bacterial genes jump to eukaryotes. "Early on in the Human Genome...

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